One day in Uganda I was picking up our daughter from a play date and wanted to take her picture with her friends. There were two little girls, one her age and the other a few years older, around 6. In the pictures, our girl and the friend her age are smiling and goofing and completely uninhibited, whereas the older girl stood ridged and uncomfortably self-aware. It was astounding to this new mother that yes, it all changes when self-consciousness sets in, when innocence is replaced by awareness. Not necessarily a bad thing, but a big moment and one I hoped would stay away as long as it could, so that our daughter could enjoy the bliss of ‘just being’ a little while longer.
I mentioned in an earlier post about moving to Rome and our wondering how a mixed family would be received and how it’s been nothing but welcoming. But it’s been so much more than that. You see, we came to a place where our daughter is a minority. In Uganda, she swam in a sea of sameness and it was mommy and daddy that were different. But here she would stand out, and I was so worried when we came that the self-consciousness moment would be forced upon her too soon. But wonderfully, the complete opposite happened. Because Italians love life, and they LOVE children, and since it’s a live-out-loud culture, they make that known everywhere you go.
So yes, she stands out, but for all the right reasons.
For our daughter has become the princess of Rome. We cannot walk down the street nor go into a shop without someone pinching her cheeks, kissing her head, rubbing her hair, and always, always telling her she is beautiful. At a time in her life when her difference could have made her shrink, the Italians have let her stay young and wild and free.
I think of anywhere else in the world we could have gone: back to NY, where inappropriate questions (which we sometimes got when there on holiday) and/or indifference might have shaped her, or an area not welcoming to diversity which could have molded her, where we would have had to shield her, armor her.
But we came to Rome, where there are no questions, no looks, no comments, just a family with a really cute kid and people who like to celebrate that. I can’t believe how lucky we got by winding up here and I will forever love Rome for this priceless gift that they have given our child.